Franz Kafka was Jew living as an exile in Germany. His writings ring a tone of queasy angst and he stimulates the philosophy of existentialism in his writing. Most of his writings were published after his death by his editor friend Max Brod who was strictly instructed by Kafka to destroy all his writing.
In the short story Metamorphosis—the protagonist of the story Gregor Samsa becomes transformed into a gigantic insect one morning. He is unable to go for work and is not able to do his routine activities. The family of Gregor Samsa becomes queasy about his plight. The metamorphosis is a story of existential trauma and guilt. It reveals the meaning of life to be nothingness. There is considerable depth in the psychological portrayal of Gregor Samsa. Samsa can be compared to Camus’ myth of the Sisyphus who becomes condemned by the Gods to roll a boulder uphill only to find to his angst it rolls down again. Sisyphus is forced to repeat this monotonous action. The insect is a motif that shows rebellion against parental authoritarianism. Kafka had a strained and troubled relationship with his father. The metamorphosis is escapism from the realities of life. Angst— the very core of being is a metaphor and occurs as a leitmotif throughout the story.
The judgment is a story of a man who has a friend in St. Peter’s Burg whose business has been going downhill. The protagonist is writing a letter of invitation asking him to attend the marriage. He also converses with his father about his friend. The story has no plot scheme.
The Great Wall of China
The Great Wall of China is a narrative about building the wall. The author comments on the magnificent loftiness of the wall and how it will counter the invasion by foes.
A Hunger Artist
The hunger artist is a story of a man who is placed in a cage and does a hunger fast. Throngs of people got to watch him and he becomes a spectacle for the people. One can’t get to the essence of this story as it is something which never takes place in real life. What is the message that Kafka wants to communicate? Is he thinking about the starving people of the world? I am not sure about the answer.
The Burrow is a strange and fascinating story of a person who constructs a burrow. He admires his construction with gaiety. Then there goes a long narrative on the ways in which the burrow could be put to use. The story-line is feebly thin. Is the burrow reminiscent of man’s inner angst? Is it a leitmotif of the human body which has no source to gratify pleasures? The burrow is a metaphoric machine dealing with the melancholia of being human.
Josephine the singer of the Mouse Folk
The story extols the virtues of Josephine’s melodious singing. Her singing is a passion for the human heart. The story is exaggerated and lacks the substance of a plot.
Fratricide is a story about a protagonist killing his own brother. The motives of the murder are not revealed. The killer experiences a bitter satisfaction, a gratification of the ego. The killer is caught up in the whirlwind of narcissistic solipsism.
The Next Village
The next village is a rumination by the author on the journey of life, its brevity.
The Bucket Rider
The Bucket Rider is a story of a man who begs for coal from the coal dealer. The coal dealer denies his request and treats him in the most unkind manner.
There are four legends concerning Prometheus—the first was he was chained to a rock for betraying the secrets of Gods to men and the Gods send an eagle to feed his liver. The second being, Prometheus overridden by pain pressed himself to the rock and became one with it. The third was the treachery of Prometheus was forgotten by the Gods. The fourth was Gods grew weary about the affair.